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Thread: A couple questions about euphoniums for the forum

  1. #1

    A couple questions about euphoniums for the forum

    After many years of not playing, I'm investigating buying a new horn and getting back into it. In my University years back in the 70's I played on a Mirafone Oval style, a Yamaha 321 and a Besson New Standard. Pro players in the service bands were just starting to replace their old Bessons with Willsons when I was at the end of my University playing time. I played professionally in college at one of the theme parks in So Cal.

    While doing my 35 years as a HS band director, job and family got in the way of playing for many years, except for some time on bass bone in the early 90's in a local symphony and jazz group.

    I got the chance to toodle around on a Wessex Duplo, a Schiller Elite IV and a Besson 967. With my chops SO out of shape, hard to say what good that did, although my impressions were that the Chinese made Wessex and Schiller just didn't set at all well in the upper register, and the valves on the Wessex were HUGE and really slow....just my impression. The 967, despite the huge bore just popped out G's and high A's like candy. But my actual playing time on the horns was very, very limited, and my chops were not in good shape.

    So, some years later I'm retired and looking seriously for a new horn. There are SO many options, and I don't live in an area where I can run out and try out a bunch of horns. I absolutely KNOW that even if I get my chops rebuilt, I don't have the wind I had those many years ago, so that is a concern of mine...but I want a horn that is fun and speaks easily, that I don't have to fight with (I found I always had to fight the Yamaha 321 to get it to respond well even back in the 70's).

    So here are the questions!

    1. What is the difference between what is being sold as a John Packer Sterling Euphonium (models 274 and 374 for example) and a Sterling Virtuoso Euphonium (models, 2, 3, 4, etc)? I get the impression the JP Sterling are Chinese made horns, where the Sterling Virtuoso, although under the Packer brand it built in England? Or is that incorrect?
    2. I have seen on this forum a number of people state that a large number of these really beautiful horns all come out of Jinbao factory in China then are "fussed with" by their importer to make them better. Is that true of Schiller, Wessex, Eastman, Packer, Mack, Shires and Allora euphoniums? These are what I call the "$1.5K to $5K euphoniums." At least in pictures, I can't see the difference between many of these horns.
    3 Apparently the only top horn still being built with the "european shank" like my old Besson is the Willson 2900. Is that correct? Although, it looks like a couple of these horns (like the Wessex Dolce) can be ordered with different size leadpipes maybe?
    4. I guess I've read that Meinl Weston and Mirafone, which in my day ONLY built oval shaped horns, then started building standard compensating horns are now getting back out of that business and no longer going to make them?
    5. Then come the "$7K Euphs" which are like the Yamaha 642 and 842 and Jupiter XO. They would be the easiest for me to find and try. I can't believe that new Yamaha 321's now go for $3,000. Of course, I paid $500 for my Besson New Standard in silver in
    6. Lastly come what I call the "$9K and up euphs" like Besson, Adams, Willson, the rarely seen Hirsbrunner, all of which are apparently all built in Europe somewhere. I guess you could add Sterling Virtuoso to that list maybe depending on the answer to question #1. And of course the very expensive Geneva Cardinal.

    Dave was very kind to answer a private message about horns for me, and it gave me a good start on looking around.

    It's a far different world than 50 years ago when it comes to choosing a horn. Besides the questions above, any advice would be welcome. I want a quality horn that plays easily, that you don't have to fight in the upper register, but I worry about filling it up and having a phrase longer than 2 measures (lol) with my old lungs. I'm leaning toward the Willson 2900, but I also really loved the sound and how effortless the upper register was on that Besson 967.

    BTW....I've read all your great advice to others seeking a new horn on the forum, but most of them are youngsters and in a bit different part of their career than I.

  2. First off, welcome to the forum and welcome back to playing euph!

    Here's some info on a few of your questions, and I'm certain others here will chime in with additional information!

    1. From what I've been able to gather, the JP Sterling horns are manufactured in China (though not in the same factory as Jinbao I believe?) with design input by Paul Riggett of the Sterling company, and QC done by John Packer in the UK.

    The Sterling Virtuoso models are built in the UK, and are higher end instruments than the JP Sterling euphs, on-par with Besson, Yamaha, etc.

    2. Schiller, Wessex, Mack all come out of the Jinbao factory, although each company has their own branding and level of QC they do on their respective instruments either at the factory in China (as is the case with Wessex) or once the instruments have been shipped to their company warehouses in the US. Wessex has more involvement with the design and manufacturing of their particular instruments at the factory, not sure about Schiller, Allora and Mack. I believe Mack Brass does their QC checks on the instruments once they arrive from the factory.

    Another brand that falls into this category is the ACB Doubler's euph. They are built in China, with QC, playtesting and modifications done by the folks at Austin Custom Brass before shipping to the customer. There are several recent reviews of this instrument by forum members, including Dave that you can find here.

    Eastman I believe has a different factory in China that manufactures their line of instruments, separate from Jinbao & John Packer.

    Shires Q Series are a bit different than the others, particularly in regards to price (being the most expensive of these brands you listed at around $5k). Like the Q Series trombones and trumpets, Shires produces most of the parts for these instruments at their factory in Holliston, Massachusetts. The assembly is done at the Eastman factory in China, with the completed horns then shipped back to the US for final QC.

    3. In addition to the Willson 2900, a few models are currently made with medium shank as an option:
    - The Wessex Sinfonico (their higher-end euph, in the $3k range compared to the Dolce model that's around $1.5k) has 3 interchangeable mouthpiece receivers in small, medium, and large shank sizes. Hirsbrunner euphs had a very similar feature on their euphonium models.
    - Shires Q series have the option of ordering either model with a medium shank receiver or a large shank.
    - The soon-to-be-released Shires Custom series euphoniums will have options for medium shank as well.

    4. Meinl Weston used to produce at least 2 models of compensating euphoniums, the 551 and 751 "Phoenix". However I don't believe they produce these anymore, and their website only lists the oval baritones/tenor horns now.

    Miraphone still produces a number of oval baritones as well as a line of euphoniums.
    Last edited by Fujiifilm; 01-09-2022 at 03:28 PM. Reason: clarification and links
    Willson 2900 TA-1 Euphonium - Giddings Kadja-M
    Yamaha YSL-643 Trombone - Hammond 12ML
    F.E. Olds Special Trombone (ca. 1941)

    York Preference 3067 Euphonium - Denis Wick 4AL
    Benge 165F Trombone - Benge Marcellus
    Wessex BR140 Baritone - Denis Wick 6BS

  3. #3
    Thanks so much! That really helped clear things up for me. Man, what an interesting multi national business building euphs has become!!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    West Palm Beach, FL
    Welcome to Dave Werden's forum. Fujiifilm shared some excellent points on horns to consider. I've played a Yamaha 641 for 12 years and now a Miraphone 5050 for 8 years or more. The M5050 is an excellent horn but given your remark about being concerned on making a "two measure phrase" might be a concern. The M5050 is a wonderful horn but may not be right for you. I'm 75 now and the M5050 with a bore of .610 does take a bit more air, but the the tone is wonderful having rich overtones. Intonation is excellent and it responds really well... even at lower dynamics.

    You might be interested in the Wessex Sinfonico which is around $3K I think. It is hand made out of sheet brass with more care. Three forum moderators have reviewed this horn and I myself have been impressed with their findings. Below are links to those.

    Dave Werden's review:

    Doug Ruby's review:

    hn Morgan's review:

    John Morgan's video review:
    Rick Floyd
    Miraphone 5050 - Warburton Brandon Jones sig mpc
    YEP-641S (recently sold)
    Doug Elliott - 102 rim; I-cup; I-9 shank

    "Always play with a good tone, never louder than lovely, never softer than supported." - author unknown.
    Symphonic Band of the Palm Beaches
    El Cumbanchero (Raphael Hernandez, arr. Naohiro Iwai)
    Greensleeves (arr. Alfred Reed)

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Summerfield, Florida
    Welcome to the forum, Jeff!

    You are probably 5-10 years younger than me. I am 74. I smoked for many years before giving it up about 10 years ago. So, I truly do have diminished lung capacity. Like Rick mentioned, the Miraphone M5050 (which is still being made), is a great horn, but does require a bit more lung power, so if you are somewhat lacking in that area, as I am, I would not recommend that horn for you. I did own one for a few years, loved it, but moved to an Adams because of the larger size of the M5050.

    I am tempted to say try a Wessex Sinfonico. It is a very fine horn, and it is a step above most of the horns coming out of China. It does cost more, and at about 3K is roughly twice what most of the other euphoniums from China cost. The horn is well made, and it seems very solid. You can try the horn at home for two weeks, and if you don't like it, you can return it for a refund. I think you are only out the shipping. That is quite a selling point in my book!

    If you wanted to spend less and get bang for your buck, I would look at Wessex Dolce and ACB Doubler, both very nice compensating euphoniums for around $1.5K.

    As I said before, I am certainly challenged with my lungs operating probably at 50-70% at most of where they should be. But, I am a professional level musician, and I like to have the best instrument I can have. And by having the best instrument that I can, I do think I sound better and play with more ease than I would on lesser instruments. You did not mention what your budget is, where and how often you plan to play, but you might consider getting a top flight horn like an Adams, Besson, Willson, Yamaha, etc. I think one of these will provide you a horn you don't have to fight with, and they are truly wonderful instruments now a days.

    Good luck in your search, and I hope you are playing soon and have local groups that you can play in.
    John Morgan
    The U.S. Army Band (Pershing's Own) 1971-1976
    Adams E3 Custom Series Euphonium, Wessex EP-100 Dolce Euphonium, 1956 B&H Imperial Euphonium
    Adams TB1 Tenor Trombone, Yamaha YBL-822G Bass Trombone
    Kingdom of the Sun Concert Band, Ocala, FL (Euphonium)

  6. I'm an older return player as well. I had an accident where I nearly drowned in a freezing lake, which I feel damaged my lungs, so I've been fighting the diminished capacity thing as well. I'm mostly a trombone player, but I find the valves are easier to play, so I play several valve instruments as well. I've found, from an air capacity point of view, that a horn like a Conn 24i Connstellation is great. It doesn't have a sound like a big european euphonium, but it is a good, satisfying sound, it's a big lighter, has great tuning capabilities, and requires a lot less air. 4V in front, front facing bell, non-compensating, smaller bore. The sound is somewhere between British euphonium and baritone. You might run into people who have definite ideas about a horn like this - that it's not a "real" euphonium - but depending on what you're doing with it, it might be fine. I might not take it to an upity concert band, and definitely not to a brass band sort of setting where you are going to be judged by your equipment. But I'd use it anywhere else. Church groups, solos, jazz settings, Tuba Christmas, maybe top voice in a tuba/euph quartet, even an orchestra where you are the only euph voice. If the air volume is really a big deal, this is an older professional model that will allow you to play to capacity. Finding one in excellent or restorable condition might take some time, but the horns are well worth it, in my opinion.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2018
    Summerville (SC)
    Hello Jeff, while the manufacturing of the Shires Q40 and Q41 is a collaborative project between the Shires US factory and the Eastman mother company, these horns are far from being step-up instruments, and in fact aim solidly at the professional market, and have major euphonium artists in their adoption list. For example, Steven Vaughn plays a Q40, while Q41 has been adopted by such performers as Bente Illevold, Brandon Jones, Matthew Van Emmerik, and Hiram Diaz – the latter having more recently upgraded to the Shires Custom.

    A number of recorded examples of the Shires Q41 euphonium exist on youtube, including the excellent performance by Bente Illevold of Tchaikovsky's Variations On A Rococo' Theme at

    Q40 and Q41 do sound quite different: Alexis Smith at Shires discusses and contrasts the two horns at:

    Steven Vaugn features Q40 in his performance of Blind Spot at:

    You will find on a number of thread dedicated to the Shires Q40, Q41, and Shires Custom models.

    Finally, Dillon Music has a Q41 demo unit on sale for a very reasonable $4395. That is 25% off list. See:

    Demo Shires Q41S Euphonium (SN: Q9303) - Dillon Music Web Store › ... › Euphoniums

    Regards, Guido
    Last edited by guidocorona; 01-10-2022 at 03:05 PM.
    Wessex EP104 Festivo + DC4, SM4U, 51D

  8. #8
    Thanks Guido, this is the kind of info I'm looking for. So, if I may ask, since Eastman is Shires parent company, what is the difference between the 2 top models of Eastman euphs and the Q40 and Q41? On paper, except for the customization options of the Shires, they seem the same. BTW...I like that custom lead pipe option.


  9. #9
    I'd also like to put in a plug for getting a good condition used Besson New Standard. GREAT horns and I dearly love mine. You'll be in the $3K range for a sample in good condition, but they sound glorious and don't take a ton of air.
    Sterling Virtuoso Euphonium, Denis Wick 4AL
    Besson New Standard

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Pat View Post
    I'd also like to put in a plug for getting a good condition used Besson New Standard. GREAT horns and I dearly love mine. You'll be in the $3K range for a sample in good condition, but they sound glorious and don't take a ton of air.
    Those are fine horns if you find one in nice shape. The bore was about .580 on the older Bessons, so they don't empty your lungs quite as fast as the new horns with bores around .592.

    The sound is very nice and they are built well. Intonation as always been a problem on the 6th partial (in bass clef, the upper Eb, E, and F). Read some of the posts here and you'll see that pitch can be managed with alternate fingerings.
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams Artist (Adams E3)
    Alliance Mouthpiece (DC4)
    YouTube: dwerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    Twitter: davewerden
    Instagram: davewerdeneuphonium

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